Guide to Digital Resources for the Humanities


The Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) was funded from 1989-1999 by the UK higher education funding bodies to promote and support the use of computers in university teaching. The CTI comprised twenty-four subject centres based within universities within the UK. Arts and humanities subjects were supported by five centres: music at Lancaster, history and archaeology at Glasgow, modern languages at Hull, art and design at Brighton, and textual studies at Oxford.

The CTI Centre for Textual Studies had a wide remit, providing support for any discipline within the humanities in which the study of texts formed a significant activity. Our core disciplines were literature in any language, literary linguistics, religion, classics, philosophy, and latterly film and media studies. For over ten years the Centre has disseminated information and provided advice to academics through an advisory service, our Web site, workshops and other events, Computers & Texts, and also our resources guides. Many changes have taken place in UK higher education over this period. Our constituency has grown, and the number of digital resources has flourished. This is the third and final edition of our Guide to Digital Resources (previously known as the Resources Guide). It is also our largest comprising both a catalogue of over 360 resources and a set of introductory essays. The bibliography itself details a further 370 articles, reviews and other works relating to the use of computers in the humanities. In comparison the first edition of the Resources Guide, published in 1991, detailed twenty-seven resources.

The Guide is not intended to be all-inclusive. We have selected resources on the basis of their potential (or proven) value for research and teaching. The boundary between what properly belongs to research and what belongs to teaching is too blurry within the humanities. The real key to the effective use of a resource for learning lies in its effective integration within the course or module being taught. More often than not this requires no change to the digital resource itself but rather is dependant on the lecturer guiding students towards the most relevant parts, or developing the questions with which the resource should be approached. Where available, therefore, we have included references to articles and reviews of resources which explicitly describe their use within university teaching.

Our focus, in compiling the Guide, is on texts, databases and programs available on CD-ROM and over the Web. The growth of the Web over the past seven years has been tremendous, both in the sheer volume of material now available through the Web, and its diverse nature. Until very recently, the CD-ROM was the most suitable medium for publishing material such as large collections of texts and images, and interactive tutorials. The tendency now is to publish these via the Web. However, the Web is itself an immense source of references, many of which may be considered unstable in their location if not their content. Significant Web resources, especially those developed through formal institutional support or funding, have been included. Articles, course pages, individual home pages have not been described in this Guide and instead we point the reader towards significant Web gateways and search engines.

There are undoubtedly omissions which we should have included. Whilst no future printed edition of this Guide is planned, we will be developing an online edition which will be fully searchable as well as browsable. The online edition will be maintained through the Humbul Humanities Hub and we encourage readers to submit details of further resources for inclusion there. Perhaps one surprise which we might not have expected when we started work on the Guide in 1997 is that there is no resource described here which is distributed on DVD. We are aware, however, of projects which list a DVD as a deliverable within the next couple of years and we expect to include these within the online version.

CTI Textual Studies, along with the entire CTI network, closed early in 2000, to be replaced by another network of subject centres, the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN). The LTSN has a broader remit than the CTI. It is funded by the higher education funding councils of the UK to support all aspects of teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education institutions. Within the LTSN there will be separate centres for: History Archaeology and Classics; English; Philosophy and Religion; Performing Arts; Art, Design and Communication. Further details about the new network can be found on the Web pages of the new Institute for Learning and Teaching

We have dedicated the Guide to Digital Resources for the Humanities in memory of Don Fowler who sadly died on 15 October 1999. As well as a renowned classicist Don was a friend to the CTI Centre and an active member of our Advisory Committee, representing classics, until his death. He was continuously involved with the CTI since its earliest days when Oxford had funding to develop the Oxford Text Searching System. Don epitomised all that is valuable about connecting the humanities to computers. He was a practitioner as well as a supporter of computer-assisted learning. In Oxford he once taught a course on Catullus which was entirely centred around the collaborative creation of an online text and commentary on the Web. He and his students worked together on developing the site, scanning, typing, linking, whilst remaining in contact between sessions via a dedicated newsgroup. Given that this took place in 1995 there is little doubt that he was the first UK humanities academic to attempt this. Don was also a great collector and disseminator, especially of links. His own personal Web page included his full list of bookmarks. Anyone on the Internet was free to see the latest Web sites which had caught his attention. He collected an immense file of email messages containing interesting links and frequently forwarded references to the Centre. For him, computers were a profoundly social tool, and whilst he remained far ahead of many of his colleagues in both his technical knowledge and his intellectual appropriation of computers for classics, it was a knowledge which he was always willing to share. He quietly supported his colleagues as they grappled with alien technology; he enthused graduates regardless of their own IT knowledge; he advised people he had never met via email about fonts and other matters digital; he patiently explained the needs of the humanities to committees traditionally scientific in outlook. He loved to have as many people as possible involved. The Guide is dedicated to Don in recognition of his unique influence on humanities computing, to record our own gratitude to him for his friendship and support.

Michael Fraser

Frances Condron

Oxford 10th December 1999

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The Guide was publicly launched on Friday 18 February 2000 at an event held in the Ashmolean Museum.

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